Spain's Alvaro Martin won the first gold medal of the World Athletics Championships in Budapest in the men's 20km race walk ©Getty Images

Spain’s Alvaro Martin, who missed an Olympic medal by one place at Tokyo 2020, became the first gold medallist at the World Athletics Championships here today as he won a storm-delayed men’s 20 kilometres race walk.

The 29-year-old from Llerena timed his challenge perfectly as he took over from Japan’s long-time leader Koki Ikeda, the world and Olympic silver medallist, with five kilometres remaining.

Martin claimed his first global title in rainswept conditions, coming home in 1 hour 17min 32sec, the fastest time recorded this year.

Also judging his race superbly was Perseus Karlstrom, winner of World Championships bronze medals at 20km and 35km in Eugene last year and who earned a place one step higher on the podium with a Swedish record of 1:17:39, with bronze going to Brazil’s Caio Bonfim, who also set a national record of 1:17:47.

Canada’s Evan Dunfee, winner of a bronze medal at the last men’s 50km race walk events to be held at the Olympics and World Championships, demonstrated how effectively he has switched his racing focus by finishing with the strength you might have expected to finish fourth in a national record of 1:18:03.

These results on the one kilometres looped course along Andrassy Avenue in the city centre were all the more remarkable given the weather. 

While the ferocity of the initial storm which caused a two-hour delay to the event had abated, competitors still got underway in driving rain which had barely stopped before the event concluded.

Martin, winner of the European Championships at Munich in 2018 and who finished seventh in this event at last year’s World Championships, recalled his Olympic frustration in his moment of victory.

"I was fourth at the last Olympics Games, I missed the bronze which motivated me to work hard," he said.

"In Tokyo, I felt when I was in the fourth position that I could win a medal. Unfortunately, it did not happen and that is why this gold medal is next step towards the next Olympic Games.

"I had an amazing race today, I did not expect to finish this fast, it is amazing. 

"I cannot express all my feelings right now, it feels like a dream."

Japan's Toshikazu Yamanishi, seeking a third consecutive title having beaten Ikeda to gold Eugene last year, had no success today as he dropped out of contention before the  halfway point and finished 24th in 1:21.39.

Sweden's Perseus Karlstrom, world bronze medallist in last year's men's 20km race walk, earned silver today in Heroes' Square ©Getty Images
Sweden's Perseus Karlstrom, world bronze medallist in last year's men's 20km race walk, earned silver today in Heroes' Square ©Getty Images

There was disappointment too for Italy’s Olympic champion Massimo Stano, who never figured in the leading contenders and failed to finish the race, as did Ireland’s David Kenny, with Lithuania’s Marius Ziukas being the sole athlete disqualified.

National records were also set by the fifth and sixth-place finishers Christopher Linke of Germany, who clocked 1:18:12, and Veli-Matti Partanan of Finland, who recorded 1:18:22.

The next two finishers - Brian Pintado of Ecuador and Australia’s Declan Tingay set personal bests of 1:18:26 and 1:18:30, respectively.

There was a historic performance further down the field, as Portugal’s 47-year-old Joao Vieira, making his 13th World Athletics Championship appearance, finished an honourable 33rd of the 47 finishers in 1:23:37.